If you ever have a long layover in Hong Kong and are wondering if it is worth visting the city, do it! It doesn’t matter if you have a 12, 8, or even just 6 hour layover in Hong Kong, it can likely be a cool experience for you. Anything less than that would be difficult, but not impossible.
Recently on a flight back from Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles I had a 6 hour layover in Hong Kong. I was asking myself if it was worth it and decided to go for it. Here are a few thoughts with how I approached my brief stopover.
>>>>>>>>>>>>Check out a video of the trip here<<<<<<<<<<<<
How much time do you actually have?
Before getting too excited about visiting the city of Hong Kong on your layover, it is helpful to do a backwards calculation about how much time you really have to explore. Factor in commuting time, flight check in, customs, mishaps, and delays.
Consider the example below:
- Let’s say that it is 10:00 and your flight leaves at 19:00
- You know it is ideal to be at your gate at the latest by 17:30, maybe even 17:00 if you are on the conservative side
- Estimate that it will take you 30-45 minutes to and from the airport via train, so 1.5 hours or 15:30
- Add time for getting your luggage 20 minutes, so 15:10
- Factor in that it will take you at least 30 minutes for customs, so 14:40
- You calculate an additional 15 minutes buffer for lost time, 14:25
- So after this calculation you have from 10:00-14:25 to explore Hong Kong in your stopover
- Effectively, 4 hours and 25 minutes
Now that you know how much time you have, you can work through the logistics and decide what to do once you get there.
Luggage Storage in Hong Kong airport
The first thing that I wanted to do was find a place to leave my luggage. (Unless you are traveling light, then in that case, you can skip to the next section.) Carrying luggage into town wouldn’t be ideal so that I could walk a lot and explore the maximum in my short stay. Thankfully, Hong Kong’s airport does in fact have luggage storage. It took me a little while to find it but I’ll explain why.
The luggage storage in Hong Kong airport is in Terminal 2 on level 3. It operates between 05:30 until 01:30 the following day and costs about $12 HKD/hour (~$1.53 USD/hr). Check their website here for the most current hours and pricing.
When finding this luggage storage, you will need to arrive at Terminal 2 if you are not there already. This could take you some time. I’d say, allow for about 30-45 minutes walking plus waiting in line at the desk. Not including any time that you may incur passing through customs. For me, customs did not take more than about 10-15 minutes, but I was also traveling on a Monday which may mean less traffic.
Note on visas: It is up to you to make sure that you are eligible to enter in HK without a visa prior to your arrival. Make sure you can before trying!
To find the luggage storage desk, follow the signs like the one below towards “Left Baggage”.
It took me a while to find this as I was looking specifically for “Luggage Storage”, which made me lose some time. The signage actually reads “Left Baggage“, which I mistakenly thought meant lost baggage.
Upon finding the desk, the check in process is fairly simple. You give your information and get a ticket. Payment is due when you return for your luggage.
Getting to the city
Living in a city currently with poor public transportation, my initial reaction was to take an Uber or taxi into town. After being there, I don’t recommend that. Take the train!
The high speed train from Hong Kong’s airport into the city was incredible. If your plan is to go to and from the same place, I recommend to buy a roundtrip ticket (this will save you some time on the return). It cost me $115 HKD (~$15 USD).
The train line that starts from the airport is the dark green line, technically called the Airport Express line. It actually starts one stop before at the AsiaWorld-Expo and goes to Hong Kong central station. From this line you can go to other stations and switch train lines if this is what you want. For a complete listing of train lines, see the official map here.
Since it was my first time in Hong Kong, I specifically took the Airport Express line to Hong Kong station (central) as I wanted to visit the city center. This was a good choice for me overall and I can recommend the same.
Upon arrival to the city center, I found everything that I wanted to see within walking distance. I really enjoy walking so this isn’t an issue for me, but for some it may be inconvenient and may want to look into other options.
If you have a telephone company that allows for international data usage, it may be beneficial for you to get data or download a map of the city before hand. I didn’t think to download a map ahead of time so I just switched on data so that I could reference the map to navigate. Normally I prefer to just explore without a map, but since I was low on time, I needed to maximize the experience. Just check with your service provider before visiting so you don’t incur ridiculous overseas charges.
Once in the city, besides walking you have the options of: Uber/taxi, city bus, or subway-train to get around.
What to do
If you are wondering, what to do in Hong Kong? You are not alone. I wasn’t sure what Hong Kong had to offer, but also didn’t know which neighborhoods were good to visit. I’ll tell you what I was able to do and what I would have liked to do, but couldn’t.
What I did:
- walked around the central plaza area
- explored the streets of both Central and Sheung Wan neighborhoods
- stopped by Western Market
- briefly visited Hollywood Road Park
- saw gaslight steps
- visited the Lan Kwai Fong area
- checked out the bustling Soho area
What I wish I had more time for:
- exploring the culinary scene
- in a short layover you can only eat so much and eating food takes time away from exploring
- there are multiple highly recommended hikes and points of interest outside of the city center. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to both complete a hike and explore the city so I opted for the city
- other areas of the city
- I only saw a very small portion of Hong Kong. Though I felt liked I walked a lot, when looking at the map, I saw virtually nothing. Hong Kong is not small
- There are so many other things that I could have done, like the Tai O fisihing village, Wisdom Path, beach, Victoria’s Peak, Tian Tan Buddha, and much more. I’ll definitely visit HK again in the future with a more loose agenda
Should you visit Hong Kong during your long layover?
If you can calculate at least 2-3 hours of free time using my exercise above, then I think a short stopover is worth it. I’m not a fan of rushing through a place and pretending to ‘know it‘, but I do believe that at least seeing something is better than not. You won’t get to know Hong Kong in a short layover, so as long as you can go in with that mindset, I think it is worth it.
I was able to see a few tourist attractions in the central part of the city, but Hong Kong has many alluring things to do that aren’t in the city center.
Focus on what you want to do and see. Do you want to walk around? Do you want to go for a hike? Do you want to shop? Eat? Something else? Ask yourself these questions and decide which area of the city is best for you.
Here’s a video that contains some scenes from my layover in Hong Kong
If you decide to leave the airport during your layover in Hong Kong, please share what you do below. I’d be interested to know how other people are able to utilize their time.